Major expansion planned for Lodi’s World of Wonders


wow museumLODI — For several years, World of Wonders President Sally Snyde has been hard at work on a plan to change the face of Lodi, and it’s no small undertaking.

“I’ve been thinking about it for three years,” Snyde said of the three-phase plan she unveiled at November’s State of the City Address. “We just wanted to be prepared before we went out into the public.”

Snyde plans to expand the science museum to bring in more tourism dollars and beautify some of the less visually appealing streets in Lodi. Its estimated cost is $17 million.

“I think (the expansion will) boost the economy because we’re currently talking about a lot of unused buildings,” said CEO of Visit Lodi CEO and President Nancy Beckman.

Snyde is confident the benefits will reach beyond the city.

“Other cities the same size will be able to copy what we do,” Snyde explained. “It’ll be a model for small towns across the whole country.”

The proposal includes transforming the 9,000-square-foot museum into a 51,000-square-foot urban park complete with a carousel, media dome, expanded retail space, a rooftop observatory, café, and tree-lined lit walking areas.

“We’re very supportive of the concept,” Beckman said. “I think this is something that will be very visible and very attractive to visitors to our community.”

With the added space, Snyde believes the museum will be able to accommodate 10 daily fieldtrips instead of the four the museum hosts now. That’s good news for the schools Snyde said the museum must turn away.

To shoulder some of the costs, Snyde is looking to volunteers. For example, Lodi architect John DellaMonica developed the building plans with Snyde free of charge.

“All of us that have been involved with this project are all volunteers because we believe in it,” Snyde said.

Despite hundreds of pro bono man-hours, the museum still has a hefty sum to raise, so it’s looking to the community for help.

Phase one of the project includes the purchase and demolition of buildings on Sacramento Street. To fund this phase, the 501c3 nonprofit needs to raise $2.5 million. Fundraising is already underway.

Snyde makes presentations, asks for donations and connects with people who want to make a difference in the Central Valley.

It’s not a new concept. The museum, which opened in 2009, was funded in large part by community donations.

To cover the remainder, staff are applying to family foundations and corporations.

Phase two involves the construction of the new spaces. Phase three is the closure of Sacramento Street between Pine and Elm streets to create an urban park.

Completion of phase one is dependent on how long it takes to raise funds. After that, Snyde estimated phases two and three could be completed within two years.

She expects fundraisers will look outside of the immediate area to obtain donations for the next two phases.

“We will be very creative when it comes to our donor walls,” Snyde said. That includes acknowledging donors in “a fun way,” such as naming science exhibits after them. “They will be recognized.”

One of the most popular sponsorship opportunities so far comes from the carousel. It’s a handcrafted, hand-painted work of art being imported from Ohio.

“It’s going to be animals of the Valley, not just horses,” Snyde said. People are already committing to the outside figures that include Sandhill cranes and salmon for $25,000 each.

The carousel and the media dome are estimated to cost $1 million each. Aside from those two projects, the bulk of the construction will funnel money back into the city through job opportunities. A lot of the construction, however, will be donated. The media dome is coming from a company in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It will be business as usual at the WOW museum during the expansion. There are no planned closures.

Funding strategies for daily operations will also remain. No revenue is being taken from current operations to cover expansion costs.

Seventy-five percent of the museum’s budget comes from earned revenue. That includes money raised through programs and admissions. Of the 52,000 visitors who went to the museum 2015, most weren’t Lodi residents. Only 25 percent comes from grants and donations.

After the expansion is complete, the model won’t change. Snyde believes the proposed additions will pay for their own operating costs.

Snyde sees overhauling Sacramento Street as a big positive.

“Sacramento Street has always been known as the slums of Lodi,” Snyde said.

When people come from out of town to visit the WOW, Snyde said they often see the blight across the street and choose not to explore the rest of the City.

“I think it’s going to really beautify that area of the downtown,” Beckman said.

Individuals and businesses interested in donating can contact Snyde directly, or visit the World of Wonders website.





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